Many couples enter into a marriage with debt already in hand. Others accumulate debt together. Either way, nurturing a loving relationship can be hard when debt is hanging over your head. In fact, according to a study by Jeffrey Dew at Utah State University, couples who reported disagreeing about finance once a week were over 30 percent more likely to get divorced than couples who reported disagreeing about finances only a few times a month.
Another inference can be made from this study: there is a whole lot of disagreement about money out there. Debt is a source of contention. None of it can be good for your marriage. The more debt and money problems you have, the harder it is to experience a loving, secure and conflict-free relationship with your spouse. While couples can disagree on many different things, the above study showed that having disputes about money were the best predictors of divorce.
In the event of a divorce, debt can become an even bigger problem. Different states have different laws about who is responsible for debt, and figuring it all out may take a lot of time and resources to resolve. There are “community property” rules, which means that any debt incurred by one spouse during a marriage could still be considered the liability for both spouses. In other words, divorce is not the end of your conflict with your spouse about money.
All couples really should have their money discussions before they get married, but no mater what stage of relationship a couple is in, working together on a plan to get out of debt should be a priority.
There are several things that come into play in a marriage when it comes to debt and resolving it. Sometimes one partner comes into the marriage with more debt than the other, and this can cause conflict. Spouses need to adopt an “ours” mentality when it comes to debt and work through it together.
Personality and spending habits can also be an influence in debt. There are spenders and savers, and each spouse needs to allow for that and come to a compromise in the best interest for the overall family. Taking on different roles with money is okay, but both partners should agree to follow the same rules, for example, sticking with an agreed budget.
Extended family may also cause both debt and conflict. How much are you both willing to support a family member, if it comes to it, be it an aging parent, an out-of-work brother-in-law or children from a previous marriage? Having a clear guideline before the situation arises will help avoid conflict.
Communication and planning are the key to harmony. Sitting down together to create a budget each month lets each spouse know not only what is going on but how they can work as a team to eliminate debt. When debt is reduced or eliminated completely, there is less of a chance for money to be a source of conflict, leading to a happier marriage.